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Bopanna to play opening singles against Japan

April 10, 2008 13:23 IST

Shunning all the injury worries, India's Rohan Bopanna will play the opening match against Japan's No 1 player Kei Nishikori in the Asia-Oceania Davis Cup tie, in New Delhi, from April 11 to 13.

India's top player Prakash Amritraj will take on Go Soeda in the second singles, after the visitors went with the rankings and left out their most experienced Davis Cupper Takao Suzuki from the singles line-up.

The Indian team nominated Bopanna, ranked 325, as the No 2 player, settling the uncertainty over the 27-year-old's knee injury.

Bopanna, who had been laid low with tendonitis in the left knee, has had little practice and might start cold against an in-form Nishikori, making his Cup debut in the tie.

According to the draw, which was held at the Inter Continental hotel in Delhi on Thursday, Bopanna will have to play the fifth rubber and could face extra pressure if the tie does go into the decider. He played a last match only once -- against Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman in the World Group play-offs in 2005 at the same venue but the match was washed out and cancelled since Sweden had already taken a 3-1 lead.

He was slated to play the live fifth rubber against Pakistan in 2006, but captain Leander Paes replaced him and turned the tie in India's favour with a dramatic five-set victory over Aqeel Khan.

The Japanese also didn't rule out the possibility of bringing in the experienced Suzuki in the reverse singles.

Suzuki will team up with Satoshi Iwabuchi in the doubles encounter against top Indian duo of Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.

"We have nominated our top two singles players, and I don't want any of the players to play for all the three days in this heat," said Japan captain Eiji Takeuchi. "It depends on how the first two days are, and also see if Suzuki has a tough doubles match."

Paes was satisfied with how the draw panned out and believes that the tie could be sealed by Sunday morning.

"I don't have a gut feeling that this will go into the fifth rubber, like it did against Uzbekistan" said Paes. "All the venues I have played Davis Cup in are special, but Delhi especially has been very lucky as far as I am concerned and I hope this tie sticks to that precedent."

The matches will start at 10 am on Friday and Sunday and at 12 noon on Saturday.

The schedule:
Friday:
Rohan Bopanna vs Kei Nishikori, Prakash Amritraj vs Go Soeda
Saturday: Leander Paes/Mahesh Bhupathi vs Takao Suzuki/SatoshiIwabuchi
Sunday: Prakash Amritraj vs Kei Nishikori, Rohan Bopanna vs Go Soeda

Deepti Patwardhan in Delhi